Sunday, October 26, 2008

The one about blogging

This course began and I couldn’t believe we were expected to create a blog. I really felt like the lecturers were trying something new out on us and hadn’t really thought it through. This of course made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t going to be a hard news article that we would submit after making everything fit into the inverted pyramid. We were expected to create a blog on which I was expected to post things I had written for the whole world to see. I was not optimistic at all.

The prospect of working in a group also scared me because I know enough slackers in my tutorial group and I began seeing myself doing all the work. I believe at this age, with the different schedules that we have, we should have been given the option of choosing our groups. Yet, the group I was assigned in turned out better than I thought. Although I still maintain that group work at the university level is impractical, I did see the benefit of working in a group for the blog plan. In retrospect, I learned to manage my time better in that week because I didn’t always know when I’d have to avail myself to meet with my group. We weren’t always immediately productive when it came to the ideas, but when decisions had to be made, we seemed willing.

When it came to sitting down and writing something, I often found it difficult to beginning simply because I didn’t like the prospect of someone reading and then commenting on my work. With the blogging genre defining what type of work I had to produce, I could no longer hide behind an inverted pyramid- hard news story that only my tutor would see. I wouldn’t say I found the blog restricting, but rather to open to my own interpretation. My personality would be open to judgement and I often found myself altering my work to suite what I thought other people wanted to hear. I saw this with the letter I wrote to myself. I had such a different letter planned, but after reading a few others, I figured maybe that’s what I should be doing. I learned my lesson fast, after reading my tutors comment. From then on, I figured that I had been part of writing the blog plan and the genre we’d defined was what was restricting me. Yes, I was blogging and other first years would potentially be reading it, but ours was a best friend relationship type of blog and I have enough best friends to know that our relationship has its breakdowns. This is how I constantly over came my fear of posting my pieces. Working on the opinion piece was one of my favourite assignments. I found it easy to speak to my source about here first year at Rhodes because I thought she had a story to tell. Our blog was intended to take the best friend approach and I though I’d like to speak to someone who has learned her lesson hard and would just tell her story from her heart. I saw this assignment as a sort of intervention conversation. If I was speaking to my best friend, this profile would have been equivalent to a heart to heart.

My source did have more she wanted to say but constantly held back because of the idea of being interview. Our interview turned into a session in which my source began to open up her heart. Even though she grew comfortable, exploring the dimensions of her lessons, there were often moments where she would stop and remember that I’m taking notes and recording the interview. To truly get the depth of the interview, after many failed persuasions, I agreed to regard her deeper confessions and thoughts as “off the record”. While I was putting together the profile, I would often think about the things she said off the record and wish I could include them in to the profile. Her experience comes with a wealth of lessons and in truth I was tempted to add one quote as I remembered it, thinking she would understand once it’s all written. Now, thinking ethically, this wouldn’t be right, but did I have the right to call her up and convince her that this quote would mean the difference between my a 1st and a 2nd for this assignment? I battled with this one. Journalists are known to be pushy and I know I could be, but I had already promised her it would be confidential. I think to some extent, during the interview I could have pushed a little harder for her to speak on record but the question at the back of my mind from the moment I approached her was, “why do I think I have a right to look into her life and share it with the rest of the world? Why should she tell me her story?” With this question in my head, I decided to use what I had and paint her story and try to capture the essence of what was really on her heart in a way that would liberate those who would read the story.

Overall, I believe that although blogging isn’t a conventional form of journalism, one can use it as a tool to practice the conventions of journalism. I definitely think blogs are a medium as good as newspapers and it’s what people put in there that can make it journalism. I believe my posts aren’t conventional journalistic pieces but I used my assignment pieces to practice what I know about journalism. I was writing and writing well is not something I think I have mastered at the end of my first year, but this gave me some practice. Through immersing myself into first year conversations, I also picked on things that were spoken about, even things said in passing. From that I can say, blogging doesn’t have to be journalism but it can be used to perfect the art of conventional journalism.

The good kind of drama

This has been an interesting year. It’s come to an end so soon and still I feel like at some point it just wouldn’t end. I arrived on campus and the first thing I did was fall over my bag in front of a whole lot of people. Now I feel like I’m still recovering from the bruises I got that day and here I am, almost at the end of that journey that caused me to fall.

I’ve managed to accomplish quiet a lot this year. First I found it really awkward relating to people and making friends. I’d been in England all of last year and my friendships there had formed so quickly and so deeply. Here I actually had to work at finding the right type of friends, friends that I would want to keep for the rest of my life. It’s probably my age that had me standing back and not so willing to give myself to any friendship that came along. High school was full of fickle friends and after a gap year in which one fiends maturity, you realise that there’s more to life than being able to hang out in a large group of back stabbing friends.

No, I’m not cynical, just responsible. I’m responsible for my life and everything I allow in and out of it. I’m also responsible for my friends, and how much value I add to our friendships. It’s so much easier to add value to ten true friendships that will last beyond first year and university than it would be cultivating 50 friendships that will end as soon as you close down your facebook account.

I wish I’d learned this lesson in high school. I could have been saved from so much drama. I look back now as I’m almost at the end of first year and I’m glad to say that the only dram I’ve had is between me and my subject choices; the good kind of drama.

The intersting and the useless

English language and linguistics was a subject that was sold so well to me during orientation week. I believed I loved sentences and sentence construction until the third term of this course. Let’s just say that I know now that it was my high school English teacher Mrs Murphy that I liked.

This department has undertaken to teach two modules at the same time. “There are only two lectures a week,” they said. Sounded like it would be easy, but it only meant one had to learn twice as much.

For me, the Thursday modules were the easiest. They related to people and people are my passion. One learns how children acquire languages as well as how second languages are attained. The more recent module dealt with texts and the ideology imbedded in texts. The Tuesday modules concentrated on syntax, phonetics and phonology and the type of useless information one picks up from speaking to people passionate about those kinds of things.
I wish they would separate these modules and give us the choice of just studying the Thursday modules. I guess I can’t always have it my way. Yet, if Rhodes University had 10 students and I had to reward this department with some, I would send 4 brave hearted students with my sincerest apologies.

Major dissapointment

It’s the end of the year and I’m already thinking about my subject choices next year. I’ve taken four subjects this year and I’m not sure all of them are worth taking next year.
Thinking about sociology, at the beginning of the year I seriously thought I would take this subject as a major. The first two terms were phenomenal. The first term dealt with an introduction to the study of society and the history of sociology. This is all interesting and one begins to look at society with a new understanding.

The second term dealt with social inequalities and although this term required a lot of reading, the lecturer knew what he was talking about and that sets you in the right direction.

The third term presented the greatest difficulty. Deviance was the module and deviant was the lecturer. If you hear that Babalawa Sishutu is lecturing Sociology 1 then I recommend you give this subject a pass in 2009. Don’t misunderstand me, I believe she’s a good lecturer but for this course, she was pushing her own agenda and so one stood a small chance at passing her course. If you knew what her agenda was and you could articulate it in an essay, then and only then were you on your way to passing her course.

The fourth term was fine, really nothing to blog about. All I know is that If Rhodes had ten students and I had to award this subject with some, I’d give it 5 long suffering students. Not too good for a course that could have been my major.

Easy psychology

Do not come to Rhodes University to study psychology. This department does not, in my opinion, know what it is doing. Our tutorials are optional and unstructured. 300 students in one venue hoping to learn something from a tutorial, I think that’s more funny than constructive. Their excuse is that their department does not have enough funds to pay tutors. Yet I have paid my fees in full; something just does not add up.
If you’re in need of an easy credit and are thinking of picking up psychology 101 next year then I beg you to consider a few points. Besides t his department not being sure of what there are doing, they think this subject is part of the sciences so they make you study the brain. If the brain gave you as much grief as it gave me in high school then perhaps you should reconsider.
Come to think of it, perhaps this is the perfect “easy credit” subject. If you can suffer through the section on your brain and its behaviour as well as the disorder in this department then all the other courses are pretty bearable. If you’re rather good at multiple guessing I mean, choice, then the class tests will be set for you! The only problem is that if you do not continue your degree at Rhodes, apparently other universities do not credit Rhodes University’s psychology 101 and 102. I wonder why?

Friday, October 24, 2008

To my University

Dear Rhodes,

You have been the victim of so much hate. People in Johannesburg sit at the breakfast table over Jack Daniels and beer and accuse you of being the drinking capital. I don’t think that‘s right or fair at all.

I almost didn’t come because I thought you would turn me in to a partying alcoholic, but that has not been the case. I’m happy to say that during our time together this year, I’ve learned how to be myself and simply say no. Yes, sometimes people made me feel like I was less of a person because I don’t want to have guys feel me up and breathe in secondary smoke at the clubs or bars that your surrounding town has to offer. I’ve learned to look passed those people and focus on the degree I came to get from you.

Next year it is my mission and my mandate to show first years that they are better people for choosing to stay indoors and do something they’ll enjoy and remember the next day. Serving on house committee is going to be fun and I promise to help those who’ll need the help as they enter the scary world of university.

You were right when you said that this is where leaders come to learn and I’m learning to lead the best I can by only exposing myself to that which will help me become a better graduate and a better person to lead others into their destiny as I walk in to mine.

Here’s to more memories,
Refilwe M

Objective and Subjective Considerations

Homosexuality and the rights of homosexuals is still largely a controversial issue that has caused a lot of debates, often very heated ones. A few issues need to be considered when we debate about issues of homosexuality and its place in society. One such issue is whether we should be objective or subjective in our approach and considerations, or perhaps we should incorporate a careful blend of both. In one of my posts called Response to Homosexuality I comment on an article posted by another author. Am I being subject or objective? It is difficult even for me.

This comment was first posted on where the author of the blog discusses similar issues.

Reflexive Piece

The blog that my group members and I have worked on has been the cause of moments of elation and moments of frustration. At first the idea of setting up a blog seemed futile and tiresome as it was a group project. One of the major constraints for me throughout this term's course was time. Although most of my submissions adhered to their deadlines, time did limit my level of productivity. Had I more time I would have liked to explore blogging's potential to a greater degree. Most of my story ideas were laboriously and desperately scraped together from shards of sources. I was continuously held back by the theme of first-year experience; a topic I have no interest in embracing. I feel that my creativity and potential were heavily reined in as a result of theme restriction, not to mention the time I wasted on disentangling my convoluted first-year experiences.

My group members were great throughout the course. From the beginning we synthesised our ideas and always moved forward in a progressive and productive way, albeit sometimes slowly. Our meetings typically gave us the opportunity to gain perspective on issues such as the needs and expectations of our readers (or audience) as well as how to incorporate our textual and visual content into the character of the blog. Working with group members has been the greatest source for my personal growth. Besides furthering my writing skills, which is a task I value above most others, I have gained valuable experience by dealing with 'production' issues with colleagues under moments of pressure. I am in my prime when alone, so this was a good learning curve for me.

Several times throughout the course I wondered what blogging has to do with journalism. I have come to realise that journalism is not just about writing and the level of skill attached to this. It's a life-style. It's a continuous awareness of what goes on around you, and a network of contacts and connections that give you the upper hand at the end of the day. Blogging has given me the push in to the maze of technological possibilities and data sources. The means are there for me to 'create', I just need to embrace and 'produce'.

The theme of my blog called for experience on my part rather than the assimilation and integration of facts. The honour of my statements and textual content was therefore dependant upon the integrity of my experience. My audience would only have reason to question the imperial validity of my content if they could find a distinctive flaw in my character. For the rest, my information was solid and my facts (in the case of an interview).

The blog as a genre allows critical thinking and subjective writing that incorporates audio and visual. The generic narrative formula is therefore very productive and makes allowance for the authority of the individual artist. It is for these reasons that I would describe my blogging experience as empowering; the ability not only to put my thoughts out there but to formulate them in a coherent and attractive way on a medium that is globally accepted. Contemporary media genre such as blogging however, is still an evolving genre as technology continues to change and progress, not to mention the needs of the consumer. Blogging as a form of media perhaps requires us to change along with it and progress simultaneously. Regardless of its relative recent birth, blogging has grown exponentially and continues to do so as it serves as a means of global communication.

Good bye Jac labs!

I hereby declare the Jacaranda labs as useless! Seven minutes before deadline and I watched the minutes go by as the computer refused to open my documents and three minutes before deadline it tells me the printer is not responding.
Not responding?! I pay R50 000 for a printer not to respond? Obviously I’m upset. Very upset! What I don’t understand is why I have come to these labs three days in a row and all three days, the printers have had some sort of drama. The day before yesterday, all the black and white printers were out of ink and flashing that red light. Yesterday it was printing blanks or just strange numbers, wasting about three reams of paper while I was here and today the printer does not respond.

I know we were told from orientation week never to put off our assignments till the last minute and I most certainly have not. I had seven minutes. The Linguistics Department is adjacent to this building so I knew I had time. Yet, these machines though to teach me a lesson. It’s the last day of my first year lectures and assignment submissions and now I’m meant to learn the lesson? Ha!

I’ve laughed in the face of danger all year, making it to deadlines just in time. Granted, today I actually had to run because I was on the verge of missing my deadline, but today was not a good day for a laugh.

Let’s just say I made it just in time and now I ‘m watching my back. Next year it’s me, the machines in another lab and early submissions. Good bye Jacaranda labs.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

it's not Rhodes, it's you!

In response to HippyChicks opinion on Rhodes University being conducive to substance abuse, this is what I had to say:

Dear HippyChick,

Your argument is all over the place. You seem to blame Rhodes University for people’s inability to properly deal with a bad test and yet you blame the individual for choosing to go on an alcohol binge? At the end of it I wonder if you actually thought your opinion through. How can you blame Rhodes University and say it’s basically conducive to the alcoholic lifestyle? That statement is true of many institutions. I’ve been to other universities and know enough drunks from those establishments to dare say that our 1000 or so near alcoholics at Rhodes are nothing in comparison to the 4000 or so drunkards at the University of Johannesburg. And drugs; welcome to the world dear! Drugs are available anywhere. Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s comforting to know that your dealer is in your Psychology 102 lecture, but you just need to know a user to understand that close proximity with your dealer means a quicker access to your next fix. Again, you can be anywhere in the world and your dealer could be your friendly neighbour three houses down, which is a problem my town had to face way back in Johannesburg. Think it through.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Spoiled for choice

I’ve just slammed my finger between a door and it’s frame in one of Rhodes’ doggiest toilets and I feel sick from all the sweet stuff I gotten in the space of 3 days.

Throbbing finger, aching tummy, tired brain, I keep typing with only myself to blame and a question in my mind. What is in sweet stuff that makes a person keep coming back for more? How come the portion of food is not equivalent to the kilojoules it contains? How come I feel so sick? How come the last week of lectures and tutorials is an excuse for people to give out sweet stuff? Why do I feel like the cookie monster that just needs a day off? Why am I still blogging when I really should be doing my assignment?

I’m in the last week of my first year and I still don’t have the answer. I have an assignment I should have started a long time ago and I needed to have finished it by now. It’s 11.21 and here I sit 3 hours since I determined to start and finish my assignment before midnight. At the moment, I figure, why not do what I’d rather be doing and that’s blogging?

I’d like to dispel a myth, starting an assignment does not render it closer to finished. I’ve completed one page and I have two pages to go and I feel like I’ve said everything that can be said. Perhaps the problem here is that blogging is free writing and my ling assignment is thinking. There really is no choice here as I type the last few words and decide that sleep is less effort than both.

The one about my application

It's a gloomy day that matches her mood. Dirty dishes in the sink, clothing everywhere, books and papers on the floor and a safe haven on the bed where she sits writing. For me that sounds like a scene out of the movies. A movie about a struggling writer who happens to be suffering from writers block. Sunday night, I lived this scene. Journalism application deadline looming; inspiration lacking I thought I might never finish in time. I felt like I needed more than a personal assistant.

I wasn't raised this way. I feel like I'm currently resocialising myself into a new norm. A norm in which my books are a priority and how I live will be sorted out once South Africa has its own equivalent of Dress my Nest or Clean House. A norm in which I perfect my journalism skills and leave domestication for a time closer to when my true love finds me.

Passport in hand, application finally typed and printed, I ran to the AMM. That place is far. I've been lucky so far, managing to skip the passport control. Handing in my application felt like such an anti-climax. Somehow I expected a drum roll or a voice over saying something like "Thank you for your application. You are a valued student. Please check you mail for a response. Have a nice day," or what ever a voice over would say in this situation. Don't get me wrong, Nicky, if you're reading this, you were very nice when you took in my application. It's just that there was so much drama in my life before handing in my application, that I needed an immediate sort of "yay for you".

I think the problem here is that I'm put on hold to often. Telkom is the best at the voice over thing. I laugh every time they put me on hold, that voice is patronising but calming. That's probably what I needed, an assuring voice that would say, "you've done your best and your application will reflect that. Go in peace." I guess that's what home is for, right?

To all the journalism 2 applicants, good luck. As I go back to my life and attempt to restore order to my room, I'll be thinking about every face I've seen in the lectures. I'll think about the paths that life is paving for us and pray for a tarred roads and fewer bumpy paths because we all have a long way to go. So where ever it leads you, keep going.

Brown is for confused

I woke up this morning and found that my face was on the road to recovery. By recovery I mean that the products I've been using are actually working and helping my face recover from the damaging effects of the sun.

Years in to our teen aged democracy, it's sad but common that you'd find the "White is beautiful" syndrome alive and breeding in the minds of young people years after Steve Biko taught about Black consciousness. I'm conscious alright, conscious of my skin going a darker shade of brown.

In truth, I fear going darker because I'm one of those beauties that can claim this title because of my light skin. I was born with an almost flawless skin, but thanks to my diet, allergies and the sun, my face tends to leave a lot to be desired in my mind. So I look to skin products. The promise of good skin to me includes not only light skin, but blemish free skin.

On the other hand, I struggle with being called anything but Black. the other day I had a White friend say something like "We're English so we have it easy." Now, in context we were talking about the Naledi Pandor movement and our hearts were distressed about the schooling system disadvantaging those who are not taught English as a first language but have to write exams in this language. Yet, as soon as my friend made this particular comment, my initial thought was that I am not English. By calling me English, it implies that I am white. My father is Tswana and my mother is Pedi, therefore I am not English.

Living in our teenage democracy, I am stuck in two realities and one consciousness. With my fair skin and my coconut accent, I fit into two worlds. White and Black. In both these worlds I struggle with my consciousness: being Black. In the White world, we can laugh and play together but I am Black and don't you forget it. In the Black world, we can laugh and play together but not in the African sun lest she put a darker mark on me and then I might not be so beautiful.

I don't know why I feel the way I do, constantly battling with the colour of my skin. In the White world, am I facing a reality of an inferiority complex masked as a pride for my colour? In the Black world am I facing an inferiority complex masked by shame? I don't know, but I' beginning to think that if Black is beautiful and White is common, then Brown is the confusion. My confusion.

Response to Homosexuality

In response to a post called Homosexuality at Rhodes, I admire the author for raising such a controversial issue and voicing his opinion. However, there is one claim which I find seriously flawed. That is that gays or lesbians coerce innocent bystanders into their alternative lives. In the words of the author “innocent people become victims”. This claim is completely ungrounded and quite frankly unreasonable. How can an individual that is capable of reason and vulnerable to any form of sentience be coerced into a situation that is unfavourable to the person, or so-called victim? The person can at any time withdraw from the relationship or dealings with the homosexual. He or she has that choice and capability. The author makes it sound as if the ‘victim’ has no control over him-herself and cannot be held accountable for his own actions. If this is truly the opinion of the author then he clearly has not done his research properly for had he but interviewed one individual that was supposed to have coerced the ‘victim’ he would understand that it is not a matter of coercion but of choice from both sides.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Naps: A Different Language.

As First Year’s we enter into this world of the unfamiliar that is ‘University life’ and we are bombarded with its current terminology and Varsity Jargon. In a sense we become ‘Alice’ in ‘wonderland’ surrounded buy all sorts of strange and different. These ‘varsity specific’ terms hold many different connotations that first years are ignorant to and therefore they become easy targets to such things as “seal-clubbing” and “naps”.

On the topic of naps, I believe most males see ‘napping’ with girls as an achievement and boast to their res mates about their latest ‘nap’ around the lunch table. Comments and praise is thrown around regarding the success of getting a girl into your bed. However, there exist two sides to a mutual nap and on the other side of the ‘nap’ is the girl, what does she think? Was it too an achievement to her or was it perhaps something more, something meaningful and special? I’d personally dismiss the notion of ‘naps’ being an achievement or accomplishment for girls, as I believe we fall deeper as and with less hesitation than most men. A close friend of mine, currently also in first year had unfortunately experienced the lonely side of naps. Isn’t it ironic how one can spend the entire night with someone, be close with them, and yet still wake up feeling alone and worthless. I have come to the realization and strongly believe in the idea that this notion of ‘naps’ seems to speak many different languages; some people can speak it fluently whilst others remain alien to it and ignorant of its implications. Kaylee, who interpreted ‘naps’ as being the language that spoke of love, was unaware that he in fact interpreted that ‘nap’ as the language that communicated fun and games. “I left his room, knowing that last night meant more to me, than it did to him” she says as she reflects on her first nap. Evidently she had attached meaning to this so called ‘nap over’ whilst for him, it remained just another notch in his belt.

It’s not surprising that most girls, especially first year girls see ‘naps’ as a huge deal. We are constantly told by out parents that ‘University is where you’ll meet your life friends and find your true love”, therefore it is no wonder that most girls fall deeper into this unfair game of love and affection that ‘naps’ is clearly apart of. I see this idea of naps as misleading and something that is nothing close to that of a win/win situation. Ultimately only one party leaves a winner, and usually that party is composed and dominated by men. Therefore if the male is the winner, it’s obvious then that the girl consequently becomes their prize.

Most first year’s have this idea that the first year of University is apparently more fun and enjoyable with no strings attached, and usually those strings represent the people that are pro-relationship. I believe most men in first year live by this unwritten rule, perceiving ‘naps’ as a component of first year fun and nothing more. Due to this, I find that many girls have developed a sort of defense mechanism that allows them to hide what they truly feel by also treating ‘naps’ as an achievement that perhaps meant nothing. By doing this they don’t have to experience the shame and embarrassment that comes along with rejection.

It is therefore evident that I am concerned about the confusion that surrounds the meaning of ‘naps’. What actually does it constitute? Is it an easy way of getting action or does it represent a special moment between two people? How can we define this notion of ‘naps’ and why are girls continuously falling prey to this game. I believe that many first year guys will say anything to make girls believe that staying the night will mean something more the next morning, but the reality is that the morning after is in fact a new day, and most often one wakes to a ‘new’ guy, meaning he is no longer the nice, sentimental, sweet talker from the night before, instead he is the guy that cant remember your name.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Death by Journalism: the cry of the complainer

It is remarkable how many first year students in our journalism class just can’t stop whining about everything and anything to do with the course they so diligently selected. I’ve been doing this course as long as everybody else, and sure, I’ve had my sleepless nights over journalism but you don’t see me complaining about it. I came to the School of Journalism and Media at Rhodes University to do more that just nurture my social life at the Rat and Parrot.
This complaining began in the first term when Nicky Crockoft facilitated a discussion on exam preparations and coping with first year. Journalism one students were rather vocal about the work load given to us by the journalism department alone. Sure, I felt the pressure in the first semester because of trying to adjust to university, but it’s the fourth term and some things we just need to move past. Yet, I do think this was constructive complaining that took place during that lecture, considering we were given the floor to do it. Sadly and with a sigh I make a request to all fellow journalism students to please refrain from complaining about how much they have to do for journalism during their English one tutorial’s. The other departments have their fair share of work to do too.

I think the issue here, close to the end of the year, is the fear of work that requires you to do more that just regurgitate and reference someone else’s academic work. The argument by a fellow Journalism student whom we shall name Gioia was that journalism is killing her social life. She usually gets so busy during the week catching up with friends and then she suddenly has all these deadlines so close to each other. “Suddenly” she says? Ha! Do future journalists at Rhodes hear the things they say? Nothing happens suddenly. Hard work in the life of a journalism one student life is what Stuart Small describes as “the accumulation of small things you should have done earlier.”

Really, the field of journalism is failing ordinary people and they’ve had to find means to make themselves visible. I don’t think I need to remind too many of you of Anthea Garman’s course on “Struggles for Visibility” based on Thompsons “The New Visibility” journal. For those who missed that term for what ever reason, Thompson speaks about how the rise of the mass media has helped some people, who struggled for visibility, be able to get their message across through the many mediums now available to them. Yet, the majority of the people of Grahamstown are still struggling for visibility. Going hungry everyday, standing on the streets and begging for money and food, cleaning our residences and digs; those are the people who should be whining and not the privileged journalism students who are pretty much guaranteed jobs, thanks to their Rhodes degree. Those are the people voices we should be giving prominence with the help of the art we are learning.

Regarding deadlines, this is yet another bone I can’t believe journalism students are still gnawing on this late in the year. The way I see it, unless these complainers start adjusting to the work load and meeting deadlines without acting like drama students just because they have to sacrifice one day of partying, the Journalism Department will be producing lazy graduates. I suppose deadlines are a lot like sieves; only allowing the refined to go through. It’s the more determined journalism students who’ve allowed themselves to be refined by the course and the perceived challenges that will meet the deadline without the drama.
Good grief, I honestly fear asking what these complainers were expecting when they applied for this course. I don’ think the Journalism department at Rhodes University designed a course aimed at producing Rat and Parrot dwellers but rather, “outstanding journalists”. I read my prospectus and those who missed that detail are perhaps far off from becoming the critical news producers we’re all being trained to become.

Shame, the complainers should perhaps relieve themselves of yet another deadline; forget the journalism two applications. That’s one less thing to do and maybe then journalism won’t be the cause of your social death.

Theme of first year

It is with much strain, annoyance, and irritation that I write another academic submission on a topic related to first-year. It is with no other subject except journ 1 that I find myself continuously faced with the seemingly joyful topic of first year life and experiences. Why is there so much emphasis on this topic? I can only presume that the journ lecturers are simply trying to ease the strain of the first year work load by relating easy topics that require little effort in terms of research and interviewing. If this is indeed the motivation behind the topic choice then one can more readily overlook the profound frustration when confronted with a new assignment that invariably requires a database of first year knowledge.

Having been a first year more than once I can confidently say that I have more than enough experience when it comes to any form of first year knowledge and appreciation. I previously studied at UP for two years and am now obviously first year once again at Rhodes. First year is an experience that tickles you only once. Afterwards you realise that your life is not as amazingly awesome as you originally thought and that varsity requires much more work and effort than you cared to imagine. Perhaps my having studied before has spoiled the theme of first year beyond compare. Indeed it is spoiled beyond compare. There is also a possibility that my fellow first years might find the theme rather interesting and insightful, due to it being a new experience.

Regardless of all this I still find great difficulty in understanding how this theme could be chosen not only as a theme upon which to write but also as a potential material source to further our theoretical and practical journalistic skills. I would expect a good journalist to have the capacity to milk information out of any data vessel, especially such vessels that do not want any information to be milked, or leaked. A journalist who has not mastered the skill of acquiring information of various kinds cannot be a good journalist. Journ 1 students are not required to practically acquire information for news purposes and are therefore not maximising their chances at becoming good journalists. Asking first years to write about first years is no challenge. It does not require us to debunk a scenario nor pit our wits to the challenge of information. It leaves us as journalists with no chance of determining what is news-worthy and apply our spoon-fed news values. First year journalism students cannot be expected to master skills that they are not adequately given a chance to practice. Rather present us with a challenge. Give us a word count and a deadline and have no mercy with either, but spare us the curfew on themes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wake up sleepy head!

So on Monday morning I decide I can't get out of bed because I'm far too tired to go to a lecture at 7.45 in the morning. Isn't that a little too close to the ungodly hours of the early morning? Eventually dragging myself out of bed and began my morning ritual of showering and grooming at a record speed, hoping to make it to my second lecture on time. Let's just say I ended up washing my dishes, then my shirts and unmentionables.

My question is, why is it so hard to leave one's room when you know that you haven't a clue as to what is happening in Sociology at the moment. You're certainly not keeping up with social change in the lecture and in reality. This isn't high school where the teacher calls home and says she misses seeing your lovely face. Why doesn't my self discipline wake up with me in the morning. Why is it so easy to miss a Sociology lecture that's early in the morning and not a Journalism lecture? Well, I reckon the answer is that at the moment one gets such a thrill from sitting in the Journalism lecture wondering if they''ll get picked on. Maybe you might finally be forced to make a contribution in the lecture and not just reserve your smart thoughts for the tutorial. I reckon one really hopes they'll get a nice question like what does html mean or what is...? Wait, there are no easy questions. I don't know what html means! I can use it (i.e. click on "edit html" and make it work). I also think I go to Journalism lectures because I might actually learn something about the many wonders of the Internet and actually wonder!

What I'm really saying is that I'll no longer say my parents "need to get with the times" because apparently, I need to do the same. I am by admission, part of the "mxit/facebook generation" I'm always on the Internet or my phone but I still have so much to learn. So to my dear mother and my loving father, If you're reading this, I promise to exercise more patience when you ask for help with your cellphones and anything computer related. To my Journalism lecturers, if you're reading this, please don't pick on me! I'm the girl with the eyes, ears, nose and a shut mouth. I'm learning all I can and I'll be raising my hand one of these good day. One day.

It's all entertainment friend!

I've always thoughts that public speaking and even journalism as a whole (interviewing, news reporting, etc.) requires a degree of acting and possibly even a degree in acting. Having done public speaking in high school, I think back to my first audition; auditioning in front of the matrics at the time (i was in grade 8), I remember stuttering and muttering and doing everything short of running out. I got in only because there weren't enough people who had auditioned. It s a bitter truth but I laugh about it now because by matric I had public speaking down to an art (as far as public speaking goes in high school that is) and I was even went onto coach grade 8's a few years later.

We (my public speaking team and I) actually faced a lot in those first few years of public speaking with people not pulling their weight and even dropping out. Being chairperson I had to fake confidence every time I introduced a new speaker. Grade 10 was the year my acting skills were put to the test. My uncle passed away the week of our competition, and the competition took place a day after we'd buried him. I had to then stand up and tell a group of strangers about "climbing the ladder of success". We pulled through with a pretty good mark I believe.

The point I was trying to get to is that at the Captivate conference, they had Mahendra Raghunath as a guest speaker and the man is a performer. That put together image we see on the seven o' clock new is literally put together. I'm not criticising the man, merely stating that news as a genre is really no diferent from a soapie. this is what Priscilla lectured about last term and Mahendra even said it himself.

He later explained that he had studied drama and had done some stand up comedy before. It was truly refereshing to see a personality and not just a trained news anchor who can speak in to a camera.


I still have Captivate on my mind. Perhaps I was captivated? It's just got me thinking about the media and the role it plays in university and how it functions.

Anna-Marie Jansen van Vuuren, one of the speakers at he conference, lectured on "Strategic Student Media Management". She explained that students are drawn to student media and student publications because they (the student) are the target market. Now this makes sense in theory but my question is, how many people actually read Activate or Oppidans Press? I mean how many students actually read the content and not just skim through it? Admittedly, I skimmed through the Orientation Week publication of Activate and even Grocotts' Mail. It was by Rod Amner's (our first term Journalism lecturer) efforts that I began to really read those newspapers, thanks to the weekly pop quiz's. Once I started writing for Activate, I became aware of how much work goes into writing stories and now I actually read it cover to cover. Yet, I still ask, what about the rest of the Rhodes community? A girl in my dinning hall commented that Activate is worse than a certain tabloid. Now I might have taken offense on the day but since being to Anna-Marie's talk, I understand there's a lot to be done in terms of student media. Firstly we must strt with branding. Individual publications must build hype around their brands. It made so much sense when she pointed this out. Branding builds loyalty.

I really hope the Activate management see this second suggestion. The second key to improving ones publication according to Anna-Marie, is incentive for the writers. The truth, taking stories every week is not easy. To anyone planning to join a student newspaper or radio station, I highly recommend it, but make sure something internal or external from the organisation, is keeping you motivated.

I've learnt more from writting for Activate than I would have if I'd just done my 40 hours of compulsary vacation work. Yet, there are weeks when I think of how many articles I've written already, the amount of academic work I have pilling up and then I'm not too sure why I'm still writting when there's no reward. With that said, when the paper finall comes out and I get my copy and I see my story in there, I realise that that's where I find my satisfaction. Thi satisfaction is found in that the hours and the challenges I faced to get the story are not forgotten and the printed version is a sign of this victory. My victory.

What do leaders learn?

I've een thinking about the Captivate Media Cnference held here at Rhodes a few weeks ago. It's meant to be a media conference that bridges student media and mainstream media. It started in 2004 at Stellenbosch University and Rhodes decided to run with the vision. My first thought was: well done Rhodes, truly this is where leaders learn.

Arriving at the conference though, I began to ask myself, what is this that we've learnt? What are these supposed leaders at Rhodes learning? What have they learnt? Let me contextualise my thoughts; the opening was scheduled to begin at 9.30 am and true to the universities "chilled" nature, the even started just after 10 am. I don't usually arrive early for anything on the weekend but I thought, surely we need to make an impression on other universities in attendance. One of the speakers was there way ahead of the students at Rhodes, forget the ones visiting. The talks eventually began after a reshuffling of lectures because one of the speakers had missed his flight. The first lecture was a forum on student media and was specifically about the newspapers on different campuses and the challenges they face. For those who plan to attend this conference next year, this is a really interesting talk. Murray, a student from UCT looked of the decline of the student newspapers as being due to the lack of continuity leadership within the newspapers. He made several valid points and I believe anyone who's spent their lunchtimes criticising Activate or even Oppidans Press should have been there and maybe they can judge with a little more insight.

On the whole, I do believe Rhodes taking this conference on and sustaining it for as long as they have is evidence of leadership but I propose a little more mentorship in terms of time management and professionalism. It's time the leaders at Rhodes learnt to be on time.

Where are the Christians at Rhodes?

A few weeks ago I attended the closing of the Christians@Rhodes week. I was unable to attend the whole week but I made it a point to attend the worship session which took place on a Friday. The worship was amazing. People arrived in their numbers and I was a little shocked at how many Christians there are on campus. There were plenty! This not only shocked me, it nearly brought me to tears. We’re the body of Christ, called to be a light to the world and how effective have we been on campus this year? What are we doing to advance the Kingdom of God?

Ghandi seemed to have some insight when he said, “If Christians lived according to their faith, there would be no more Hindus left in India.” Those words pierce me when I look at Christians on campus, and even when I look into the mirror. I’m part of that non unified body of Christ and not every area of my life is evidence of the might work of God.

I’m praying that the vision of Christians@ Rhodes would be carried out with more dedication and determination. We’re so many, and once we allow God to unify us and we start stepping out and living Matthew 28, I see a mighty work of God happening on campus and spilling over into other universities.


Opening windows is such a simple concept, but in the Jacaranda Labs, this is a foreign concept. If you walk int to these computer labs, you will be overwhelmed by the amount of breathe that's been acumulated in this space.You adjust to it in about 10 minutes but it makes me miss high school. There I didn't understand why my teachers insisted on opening the windows even on winter mornings, but now I understand that confined spaces need ventilation. I think the problem here is that we're all so passive and stuck in a "someone should do it" mode. It's almost the end of my first year and that someone has not come. I often think that I'll get up and do it, but sometimes it seems a little embarrassing, getting up and opening a window in a public space. I know that sounds silly but that's how I feel.

So now, day in and day out, I come into the Jacaranda labs to inhale someone elses secondhand carbon dioxide. Day in and day out I pull a face as i walk in and breathe a sigh of relief once I'm done my work.Since nobody wants to open a window, I think it only makes sense for my parents to buy me a laptop. This way I'll be in my ventilated room, thinking and working constructively because it's in well oxygenated places that I have come up with the most inspired essays.This unfortunately was written in a Jacaranda labs and I had very little oxygen going to my head, so if this is not inspired enough, you know the reason.

Lost and found

Knowing me is such a simple thing. All you need to know is that I don't like to be judged before I'm understood. "You've lost your culture," said a friend to me the other day as if my culture is some thing I've been caring in my hand and showing off and now I've lost it somewhere never to be found by me again. My response was simple, "I'm sorry my friend, but we're more alike than you think. Just because I speak English doesn't mean I've forgotten my roots or even aspect of who I am. I don't think you have either. My life needs no evaluation from you, thank you very much..." This response of course, happened in my head. I understand anyone who can't believe I didn't say what was on my mind. I don't think my friend was in a place to discuss this opinion of his and I pray one day to have a talk where I can be me without having to first change the perspective of who he thinks he's talking to.

What upsets me the most is how he thinks he has so much more insight into my life than I do. Does he know my culture and what it's about? Has he spent time gathering information on what it means to be Tswana in the 21st century? Has he sat down and tried to understand me and my upbringing along with my trails, tribulations and victories? Has he tried to see what else lies behind this coconut accent and model c schooling? Has he tried to understand the awe I have for my parents and their struggle to free their daughters from the bondage that comes with some of this culture that "I've lost"? The answer to these questions is simply, No, and obviously I have a lot to take up with my friend.

The question the rest of the world is left with is simply, what are individuals doing to understand their friends better before assuming anything about who they are or what they've lost? Think about it, there's a lot to learn.

I will trust in the Lord

Last week Thursday night I finally had time to read Activate, and the article about the muggings at the Drama department had me a little scared, perhaps even very scared. I had to go to the Jacaranda labs to type an assignment but it was a few minutes to midnight and suddenly the thought of walking all the way to the labs had me sweating.

Now, I'm a Joburg girl and I don't scare easily, but I love Joburg and I want to go back in one piece, with no scars or trauma. It appears as if I do scare easily or could it just be that our campus is not safe and I should be scared along with the rest of campus?I don't have an answer to that but the Activate article gave a pathetic comment from CPU about how our safety should be a priority. Now I'm sure they said more than that, but it seems to me that our student journalism is failing to answer the "so what" question we were taught to answer when writing a hard news story. Perhaps I should mention this to the news editors, seeing as I do write for the paper.

Whether they (Activate or CPU) give adequate advice or not, I still found myself sweating at the prospect of walking to the labs alone at night. I don't have the luxury of a contract phone that allows me to call CPU with limitless airtime because I need someone to hold my hand in the dark. No, I've been given a limitless ability to walk and a Salvation that promises me that God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of love, of power and a sound mind. Institutions are failing to protect this campus and the country so I have only one hope: to trust in the Lord.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Laughing in the rain

I had a good laugh this week. Yesterday it rained and people went running to their next lectures afraid of getting soaked. Their lives didn't seem too disrupted and my fun didn't begin until the hail came out. It wasn't serious hail that makes you think "O my goodness, the windows might break", but people's faces became seriously funny. Suddenly, effortless running turned into fearful faces and running feet. It looked a lot like expressions you see on people's faces in our journalism lectures when they're hoping that Alete is not picking on them.

Today was also a day for great laughter; it poured for like 5 minutes but the expressions on people's face had me laughing for a long time. I understand that a girl, her relaxed hair and rain don not go well together but it's that very girl who will have you laughing for ages as she tries to figure out if she should protect her hair or keep her books from getting wet. If she doesn't have an umbrella, I think she'll have one by tomorrow.

My advice to you is simple: carry an umbrella, bring your sense of humour and pray for rain; it's going to be a funny day, make sure you're the one laughing!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The one about germs

I’ve just arrived at the library to study for tomorrow’s Sociology test and I’ve just realised why my mother was so strict about us washing our hands when we came back from school. I took a seat at the computers and my seat was warm. Trying not to think who might have been sitting in this chair before me, I put my hand on the mouse and to my horror that was rather warm too!

Now, with my Matric Home Economics and Biology, I know that “warm” is the right temperature for germs to breed. Suddenly I have an itch on my face but how can I scratch, knowing that I’ve just put my hand over a germ breeding ground? I am no longer an innocent carrier of germs, I know they’re there feeling nice and warm and ready to be transferred to anything else I touch.

It’s horrifying to think how many labs and subsequently mouses and chairs and keypads, there are on campus availing them to be the breeding ground for these germs. And we, diligent students, carry these very germs to our rooms, our lecture halls and our dinning halls.

Perhaps the solution that’s needed is a simple box of wipes next to each mouse in every lab. Although, could be tricky; when Pick ‘n Pay had the wipes for their trolley’s, suddenly everyone was aware of the germs they might have touched. Perhaps there needs to be a time laps between every user, that way, my seat and mouse will always be chilled to the right temperature, and I’ll go back to being an innocent carrier of the library germs.

Monday, October 6, 2008

University and the peg...

It's funny how my life can now be compared to the two pegs that I own. I did previously own over possibly 30 pegs (student budget affects even this) and I probably still do but, all I can find right now are two of 30 pegs.Because I was unable to go to my second lecture, I washed my shirts and had to hang them to dry outside one shirt at a time. This is of course a slow and painful process. I'm lucky it was a windy day but the fact remains it was a tedious task. Needless to say, at the back of my mind I'm was budgeting for more pegs.

Now, university life is much like my two peg saga. You have several assignments to do and you previously had a month to do them (if you're keeping up, that's about 30 days). Suddenly, you have two days to get everything done and you have to suddenly prioritise, one assignment at a time. At the back of your mind you're promising yourself you'll budget more time for the next batch of assignments.

My shirts dried, my work is done. There's a new batch of assignments and new batch of dirty clothes. There's no budget for one or the other and someone asks me why?

The answer to my washing woes and assignment drama is simple; it's Rhodes University honey, it's chilled!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

In search of a true friend

Residence life can breed a culture of many faces that smile at other faces, yet one has to dig deep within those faces to find the friendships. Vanessa Selemale walks in and out of residence as one of those faces acquainted with other faces and her journey to making true friends has been one laden with many lessons. Having come to university with the hope of making the ideal friend who understand her without effort, Vanessa admits that her hope sometimes seemed to be out of reach.

Thinking about it some more she clarifies that she is satisfied with having her few friends and many acquaintance. This is something she decided very early in her university career after realising that not everyone who stands in the crowd and cheers you on while you’re drunk and acting crazy, is your friend.

She remarks that she still talks to many people she met during orientation week but the friendships are at different levels. This has resulted from spending time with them and seeing what everyone wants from the university life and their future along with the lessons she learned while partying with several of them. In truth, Orientation Week and the months that followed taught Vanessa many lesson about the dynamics of friendships and she hopes to pass her knowledge on to the generations of first year students still to come. “Some friends are seasonal, and that’s alright,” says a more mature Vanessa.

Learning about the clubbing scene for the first time in university, she discloses that she was unable to keep up with this lifestyle. Vanessa grew up as responsible daughter who held down a job and often took care of her brothers and knew nothing about the night life of a teenage girl.
Looking back and re-evaluating a week in which she had missed going to Grahamstown notorious club Equilibrium for a weekend of clubbing because her mother had come over, she relates how her friends in residence spent hours looking for her. Alerting the house sub-warden, the master key was brought out to open her door in an attempt to check that she hadn’t committed suicide. Appreciating a friend’s remark a few months after the incident, she relates that her friend expressed greater understanding of who she is and no longer pressured her into going out to Equilibrium on the weekend. “We’re all trying to find ourselves and in such confined spaces we need to learn people’s mannerisms and habits very early in the game.”

What she wants from her friends hasn’t always been a thing she was certain about. Leaning back and slowly sipping her tea, Vanessa explains that she has no problem with going out, the question is usually “going out to do what and where?” Crossing her legs and rediscovering her hand she hesitantly begins to explain the tension she’s had to face when choosing which friends to spend her Friday nights with, “for me, that’s where the whole Black and White thing comes in”. Vanessa finds that on many Friday nights her Black friends usually gravitate towards Equilibrium. Meanwhile her White friends have thought of yet another innovative way of celebrating the weekend, be it sipping a glass of wine at a casual dinner in someone’s digs or going to see different destinations in the province.

Although Vanessa’s has learnt that getting drunk and having random guys rub against you, all in the name of fun, is not her idea of a good time out, she believes that once a friendship is formed, one has to keep working at it because one is not a friend to someone in isolation of other friendships.

With a year of practice Vanessa still does not believe she is the expert on friendship but she now lives with a firm conviction that her real friends have been the people who remained her friends even in her absence without her having to send them a reminder.

Solitary Survival..

A chill had set in just as the sun had fallen beyond the horizon, promising a cold and long evening. The clink of his Zippo produces a flame that sputters abnormally in the stillness of the dusk air. He brings the flame to the edge of his cigarette and pulls hard, causing fiery embers to consume the edge. "It's a struggle", he says with sadness as smoke spirals from his mouth. "Every day I realise it's the same as the day before; the same problems and the same routine."

Vincent Arthur is currently in his first year at Rhodes after successfully completing matrik last year. He is a smoker form Jo'burg with little or no money and doesn't get along with a lot of people. His appearance suggests no reason for this as he seems at first glance just like any other first year, but his feet are bare with the markings of the day's adventures besmeared on them. They bear the resemblance of that which has suffered through thick and thin on an endless journey. His rustic feet seem out of place with his crew-cut brown hair and well-trimmed goatee. His golf shirt is clean and his shorts bear a remarkable resemblance to the hundreds of other shorts worn by male students.

Vincent walks alone. The daily adventures of varsity life are experiences he does not share with friends and fellow students. He is certain he would go out more often and so meet more people, but his budget is tight and restricts him to the chambers of his room. It is here that he reads and writes; for his own pleasure mostly. "Writing is like a conversation without the incessant need to assert your social accomplishments" he says while laboriously putting out his second cigarette. There is a calm about him as he sits in silence while the evening air stirs a restless chill, and the darkness is complete.

"Donne once wrote 'No man is an island entire in itself'". Vincent caringly utters these words as he lights another cigarette, then objects that while the life of a recluse is perhaps an agonising torment it is well worth it to prevail. To read and write is time-consuming and requires little if any social comitment. His sense of accomplishment through these is far greater than competing who can down a beer the fastest.

He stubs out his cigarette and says it's getting late. Indeed the chill is becoming an oppressive force. His hand is warm and his grip is firm. Under the feint light of a distant lamp his eyes seem dark and sinister under heavy brows. Are these the eyes of a sad social deviant or of a being who simply embraces his individuality?

He walks away with a slow steadiness and a gentle dip in his left shoulder, almost like a contra-postal pose in action. He walks alone with his hands in his pockets. He is neither a deviant nor a genius in the making, but rather, a student, surviving the tediousness of first-year life in his own unique way.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Introducing Miss 'Toots' te Reh...

Introducing: Miss ‘Toots’ te Reh

Lights, camera, action! These are the three words that come to mind when I’m in the presence of Miss Julia te Reh, a dedicated first-year drama student who’s inspiration and passion for life lies on the confidence and vitality that her daily quotes provide.

Okay, so you may be asking yourself why ‘Toots’ te Rey. Well if you knew Julia then you would understand why this particular ‘stage name’ characterizes her personality to the ‘T’. Toots te Reh, is a nickname given to her by her fellow residence mates which represents her very composed nature and overly expressive pronunciation of certain words.

With her platinum blonde straight hair, fair skin, and tall frame, she exemplifies the stereotype of a ‘typical blonde’. But Julia is far from anything that falls into that criterion, instead she’s determined and has proved successful, achieving so much already. Julia’s reason for coming to Rhodes was a result of a simple and easy decision, “I knew what I wanted and I knew what I didn’t”. A future in drama must have defiantly been in the cards for Julia but this was not always obvious to her, “I formed very close bonds with my teacher’s, and they were the one’s who spurred me on with arts and drama.” However the main reason behind Julia’s sparked interest towards drama and a future at Rhodes was Reza de Wet, playwright and lecturer. “Being surrounded and taught by the likes of Reza de Wet, Andrew Buckland and Gary Gordon sends shivers down my spine” clearly these people have been very influential in her decision to study drama.

Despite the fact that Julia is only in first year, she has achieved more than she ever expected. Her determination and talent have proven to be very rewarding. She has featured in two plays each term, performing roles that range in genres. She has played the character of an erotic prostitute, a mother, hormonal and confused schoolgirl, witch and a nurse, all of which proved to be “Challenging, exciting and insightful.” All this came as a sort of shock at first, “I had no idea that the first audition would have such a powerful impact on further roles, it turned out to be extremely rewarding.” Not only has Julia remained herself through-out this all, she has also managed to adapt surprisingly well to university life and the demands of drama and rehearsals. She juggles between a life consisting of rehearsals and a life of lectures and constant work, “I literally run up and down campus the whole day, but that’s what I like, constantly moving and being productive, oh and not to mention it burns calories” she sneakily adds.

Julia admits that sometimes it’s hard to keep your cool and remain unchanged, “I become very involved in the roles I play and when do you switch your character on and off? it’s hard because eventually you feel alone and empty.” She is very close to her family, and their opinions mean a lot, but unfortunately they are unable to see her perform at her best and this is a struggle for her.

Despite the constant demand of the drama world Julia has still managed to explore into many different social circles and make friends easily. She says it hasn’t put a damper on her social life at all, “I have met so many people because of all the plays, so this in itself is a social, interactive environment.”

From all her success, be it academic and social, Julia is more than likely to pass first year with flying colours. She definitely has the potential to become someone amazing and influential. One day people will be screaming the name that is, Miss ‘Toots’ te Reh.

(Facebook link:

Friday, September 26, 2008

To my younger self

Dear excited one,

This is the beginning of a new life experience. I often think about how proud you were, as a little girl of 8, to be introduced as “daddy’s little girl”. A part of you will always be that little girl. Now, you’re looking at 20 and you’re far from home so it’s time you became someone else. Welcome to university Refilwe.

Here, you must develop new habits. Wake up in the morning and get to lectures on time. You have an unforgettable face and so other students are watching and it’s those very students who could employ you one day. Think about this when you’re about to walk in 15 minutes late, while Nicky Cockcroft lectures on “Reading for academic purposes”.

To your laziness, remember that there is a man out there earning more money than he needs and once you’ve failed your courses, he’ll deposit a large sum into your account and you’ll never have to study again. I would also like to remind you of something in you that will never change: that quiet determination to succeed and slowly take over the world. Studying is a slow process. Once you’ve mastered this you’ll be well on your way to achieving your aspirations.

That doubt you often have about yourself and your abilities is something I’d like you to lay down. Substitute it with a passion for your studies and an unshakable self assurance that will be the fortitude with which you face tough times. Don’t forget that others are trying as much as you to build new identities for themselves. Have fun with other first year students and make this an experience you can laugh about, as well as celebrate, on that day when you all graduate.

Yours with applause,
Fee M.

My letter to me..

My dear fellow,

I write this to you in the hope of setting right the few misperceptions that you so fondly entertain. We all indulge in idealistic fancies from time to time. Therefore I will not put on a tone of superiority but will rather assume the position and perspective of a loving brother, for we are after all identical.

You look forward to a new town. A place that reeks of free-hearted spirits and an abundance of social experiences that call and beckon around every corner. The smell of independence lures your attention from every angle and the notion of doing your own thing pleases you. The sunset tells you of all that was and the moon tells you of all that could have been. You gaze upon the mountain top with a look of meek longing in your eyes yet you never break camp and start the hike.

Varsity is all that you want it to be and much more. The boundaries are there but are easily crossed. If you’re looking for a good trip you need to make but a phone-call. If you’re looking for individual creativity you need only to draw from an abundance of sources that outwardly prickle your inner potential. The material is here and the tools are easily acquired. You will not look far for stimulation and perspective, or for the sweet twists of a reckless fling with a salty yet adequate broad.

Whatever the taste and however deep the desire, satisfaction is but an arm-stretch away. All you have to do is reach out and take it. Break camp and start marching son. The doors are all open but you need to get off your lazy ass and have enough initiative to explore that which will serve only to enrich your inner perspectives. Embrace the opportunities, explore the beauties and indulge in the pleasures. Release everything save your wisdom and initiative. You are young but once.

Your own

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Letter to my youger self

Dearest Laura,

I am writing to you out of concern, a friendly warning that life will move on and your metabolism will slow down unless you take action to avoid the infection that is first year spread. University life is nothing like school in terms of diet. Remember the days when you could eat anything you wanted without a worry in mind or a change in weight, well unfortunately at Rhodes the temptations are greater and the food portions are greasier so some self control is needed when it comes to maintaining your weight. The fact that Grahamstown is a ‘dinky’ town, with numerous restaurants and take out food stores all within a hundred meter radius of each other, makes this self control slightly more difficult, if not border-line impossible.

Therefore I am only thinking of you and your happiness when I say that regular exercise should and must become apart of your daily routine, think of it as a compulsory lecture. You may be thinking that the transition into university life will be easy and effort-less but trust me when I say it is nothing short of a turmoil of emotions and confusion, and in many cases people turn to the comfort of food for support where previously you would find comfort in the words and proximity of your family and friends. Don’t be fooled by the notion of three meals a day, first year spread is a sneaky and vicious creature lurking in every corner spreading its curse and claiming everyone as its victims. Another factor that proves to be quite deceiving are the residence mirrors, they tend to paint a misleading picture of your physical appearance, eliminating any feelings of guilt after you’ve just devoured your second helping of food. Try avoiding the lies told by the mirrors and the attack of the monster by exercising regularly and keeping fit.

You’re Friend,
Laura Matthews